Having a baby can be a marvelous experience, however, according to certain studies, it is suggested that this phenomenon can affect 1 in 7 women in the USA, which could be translated into 600.000 ladies experiencing postpartum depression out of 4 million births, without counting stillbirths and miscarriages.
Postpartum depression can begin its symptoms after two or three days of delivery or even before delivery, and it can last up to months or weeks, additionally, baby blues could be further developed into postpartum psychosis.
It is important to bear in mind that there are three different types of postpartum depression:
- Baby Blues: This aspect seems to be milder than postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression, it can be characterized by crying for no reason, and having anxiety or sadness. Furthermore, there could be some symptoms involving irritability, feeling overwhelmed, concentration issues, or appetite issues. Baby blues usually begin a week after birth and the condition usually dissipates after two weeks.
- Postpartum Depression: this condition is more severe than baby blues and it could affect both parents. Symptoms include experiencing highs and lows, crying, feelings of guilt, anxiety, irritability, and not being able to take care of the baby. Additionally, the symptoms can begin after a week of giving birth, after a year, or during pregnancy and the symptoms could last up to a year. However, it has been suggested that medication and psychotherapy are highly effective.
- Postpartum Psychosis: the extremely severe condition where medical aid is required. Symptoms may begin right after delivery and they can last up to months. The symptoms include paranoia, insomnia, hallucinations, self-harm attempt or the baby, or mania. The main reason why this condition requires immediate medical aid is that the person can cause harm to themselves or the baby and it could end in fatal consequences.
Interestingly, fathers can encounter postpartum depression as well. The symptoms may vary but they might mainly feel sad, anxious, overwhelmed or changes in eating patterns as well as sleep.
There is not a single cause for this phenomenon, but rather there are several causes. For fathers, those that are young, have a history of depression themselves or in the family, and struggle financially might be at greater risk of developing postpartum depression. On the other hand, for mothers, it has been suggested that there could be a potential factor which is hormonal drop during pregnancy and after delivery which could be the main reason for this condition. Moreover, there are also the social as well as psychological aspects which could also influence postpartum depression before or while having a baby, examples could be how society thinks being a good parent is, combining work with parenting, body changes, or relationship issues.
If you feel like you might be experiencing symptoms similar to postpartum depression, or feelings that you could harm yourself or your baby, please do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional to receive help. There is nothing to be ashamed of and it is a natural process. Mothers who have a depression history, bipolar disorder, who have twins or other multiple births, have difficulty breastfeeding, are financially or emotionally struggling, have a medical condition, have relationship issues or unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of developing postpartum depression.
Finally, this issue could be prevented by contacting your health provider and telling them how you feel emotionally about having a baby, this, in turn, can help them check by screening and monitoring during pregnancy whether you are at higher risk of developing this condition and thus take action with medication or psychotherapy.
by Marta Padron Pena, Mental Health Intern